Tidbit Tuesday | Philadelphia Emergency Routes

On Tuesdays, the Mayor’s Office of Transportation & Utilities (MOTU) posts a map or graphic that tells a story about transportation or utilities in the City of Brotherly Love.

Do you know which route you would take in the (very unlikely) event that you were asked to evacuate the city? Emergency management organizations generally recommend knowing nearby emergency evacuation routes to enable efficient and speedy travel in case of a city-wide emergency. This week, we took Emergency Route GIS data from OpenDataPhilly and looked at which evacuation routes in Philadelphia are designated for different transportation modes.

As some background, the Philadelphia  Managing Director’s Office of Emergency Management (MDO-OEM) began its planning process for evacuations in 2007. Working with more than 100  stakeholders, including the Streets Traffic Division, MDO-OEM designated evacuation routes for four mode types. These routes are illustrated below.


What would travel conditions be like during an emergency evacuation when people are leaving at once? Using 2008-2012 American Community Survey data, we cross-referenced the evacuation routes for private vehicles with private vehicle ownership data (see below, left). We also cross-referenced non-separated surface transit evacuation routes with private vehicle ownership data (see below, right). The thickest lines in the two maps below represent where the highest volumes of traffic are expected for drivers and transit riders if people are leaving at once to their nearest roads or emergency transit services.


You can find more details about your specific evacuation routes and close-ups of the map here.

While a city-wide evacuation has (thankfully) never occurred, the City generally experiences one “snow emergency” each winter season. Last winter, there were several snow emergencies. The record for the maximum snowfall during a 24-hour period earlier this year was the third highest during the last 15 years.

During a snow emergency, 110 miles of City Snow Emergency Routes, shown in blue below, receive priority for snow removal. These routes are plowed the fastest, ensuring that critical routes are opened as soon as possible. Snow emergencies also mean that vehicles and dumpsters on snow emergency routes must be relocated so the City can clear snow from curb-to-curb.


Remaining streets will be plowed after priority routes are serviced. More details about snow emergency routes can be found here.


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